Play could increase children's math and science skills
Written by Lee Foley
April 2003

Lee Foley

 Playtime at a nursery and preschool run by First Plymouth UCC in Lincoln, Neb., has taken on a more serious end, unbeknownst to the kids. According to a recent story in the Lincoln Journal Star, "For five years First Plymouth teachers at the preschool have conducted research to discover ... how children develop visual-spatial skills and how teachers can make such learning easier." It started in 1998 when a volunteer, who happened to be an architect, noticed boys playing with building blocks and tinker toys and wondered why that type of activity didn't hold the same fascination for girls. Grants were applied for and eight experts brought in, including a psychologist and an architect, to supplement the faculty of 40 teachers on a normal day, where 350 kids ranging from six weeks through kindergarten age are enrolled. Kids are encouraged to think dimensionally. Posters of famous buildings hang on the walls and neighborhood field trips are taken so tots can identify various architectural functions. It's hoped the research will lead to increased math and science skills, especially for girls. It's also thought the program helps kids with delayed language skills express themselves.

 The Rev. Robert Chase, Executive Director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Inc., which advocates on behalf of disadvantaged persons on communication issues, was one of six experts offering opinion in a recent article in The New York Times regarding telecommunications giant WorldCom, which is trying to emerge from bankruptcy. Besides Chase, former U.S. Attorney General William Barr and former Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard shared their opinions. The Office of Communication, Inc. had previously brought action before the FCC asking that it enforce its "character clause" and strip WorldCom of any FCC-issued license it might hold, claiming the company had demonstrated it was not fit to serve as a licensee. The commission set aside that issue on a procedural technicality. Now, the commission is still considering the broader question of what constitutes corporate character.

 Kawaiahao UCC, founded by New England missionaries in 1819 as the first Christian church on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, is prominent in a New York Times article about efforts to preserve the native Hawaiian language. According to the story, "Unlike churches that offer services in Spanish or Polish or Portuguese because their congregants are most comfortable in those languages, Kawaiahao ... has among its flock many Hawaiians who do not speak the language they come to hear. But they consider the ritual an expression of their culture." Church moderator Frank Pestana is quoted in the story, "The fact that we speak it and we sing it and we read it, that's our role. We keep it alive by doing all those things." The Hawaiian language was nearly lost after the monarchy was overthrown in the late 1800s and it was banned from schools. For the past 15 years, the state has made it possible for students to attend schools where Hawaiian is spoken and taught. Nevertheless, churches are finding it difficult to find Hawaiian speaking clergy. Hawaiian ancestry and fluency are now only preferable, not mandatory, as Kawaiahao searches for a new pastor.

Has your church been featured in a newspaper or magazine? If so, send a clipping of the article to Clippings, United Church News, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland OH 44115-1100. Mention the name of the publication and the city where it's located. Lee Foley is Director for Administration in the UCC's Proclamation, Identity and Communication Ministry.

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